While the nation reels from the lack of indictments in the recent cases of Ohio's John Crawford III, Missouri's Michael Brown and New York's Eric Garner, all of whom were killed by on-duty police officers, South Carolina is reportedly taking a different approach, having indicted three white officers in the past four months for the shooting of unarmed black men, the Associated Press reports.
According to the report, former prosecutor and current state Rep. Tommy Pope acknowledged that the state is known for its "good old boy" connections and is taking particular care to ensure that police officers are held accountable for their actions. "As prosecutors, you are well aware of that stereotype, and so you go that extra mile to make sure justice is done," Pope told the newswire.
The most recent indictment, almost four years in the making, according to AP, happened on Wednesday, when the grand jury issued a murder indictment for the 2011 shooting of Bernard Bailey in the small town of Eutawville by the white police chief, Richard Combs, after an argument. Combs was the only police officer in the town at the time.
Combs' defense attorney accused the prosecution of playing to the national outcry over recent failures to indict other police officers—failures that have stripped bare the ugly wounds in American race relations and the justice system.
"He's trying to make it racial because his timing is perfect," attorney John O'Leary said, according to AP. "He's got all the national issues going on, so they want to drag [Combs] in and say, 'Look what a great community we are here, because we're going to put a police officer who was doing his job in jail for 30 years.' That's wrong. That's completely wrong."
Bailey's family, who have already settled a civil lawsuit against the small town, welcomed the indictment. "We don't know what brand of justice they serve in Ferguson. We don't know what brand of justice they're serving in New York City. But here in South Carolina, we believe in the jury system, and we believe in what the grand jury has brought as a charge with this indictment," the family's attorney, Carl B. Grant, told AP.
"Law enforcement, due to the nature of their jobs, are given wide berth," Pope said. "But you're sworn to certain things, and when you go outside those requirements, you can't hide behind your badge and gun."
The other two indictments of law-enforcement officials, according to AP, are an August indictment for misconduct in office of a North Augusta cop, who shot a 68-year-old unarmed black man to death at his residence after a pursuit; and a September indictment for assault and battery of a state trooper who shot a driver who was reaching for his wallet after being pulled over.
Read more at Talking Points Memo.